Tag Archives: Writing

Kill your Darlings.

Editing

I will be elbow deep in revisions of my novel Of Broken Things, my sci-fi murder mystery which started as a love story, for at least the next couple of months, so expect to see some blog post about editing, starting with this one.

Today, I want to share with you a story that, in my opinion, is the perfect example of why it’s essential to kill your darlings when editing. And by that I don’t mean murdering your favorite characters in a particularly gruesome way. No, it means not being afraid to cut out and rewrite (or sometimes delete entirely) some scenes that you like, because they don’t work with the flow of the story. This, my friends, is the hardest and the most heartbreaking part of the editing process.

But let’s go back to the story I wanted to tell.

About a year ago, a writer I know finished his first novel and decided to get it published. He sent his manuscripts to several big publishers (yes, he decided to bypass the search for an agent process and submitted directly to the publishers), but none of them seemed interested. After doing this for several months and receiving several rejections as well as some negative feedback, he decided to seek the opinion of his peers and sent his manuscript to several beta readers. Yes, he probably should have done that before submitting to publishers, but he had been certain that the book was perfectly publishable.

The beta readers came back with the verdict that the story needed a lot of work before it was anywhere near publishable. All of them were unanimous in their assessment that the beginning needed to be scrapped in its entirety. Let me tell you why.

The story opens with a prologue which begins with the words “Dear reader, imagine a world where…” and is followed by several pages of backstory and worldbuilding. All of which is presented info-dump style. Then Chapter one starts with four paragraphs describing the weather and the scenery. So about 16 pages in, we still don’t know who the protagonist is or what the story is about. I don’t know about you, but I would have closed the book and moved on to the next one by that point.

The betas told this author, “Scrap the prologue. Find a way to integrate that information into the story in smaller bites. Introduce your protagonist early on. Start with the action.”

The author refused to change anything. His answer was, “But I like those scenes at they are!”

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He was so attached to his words that he couldn’t see any flaws in his story. He didn’t t want to kill his darlings…

As far as I can tell, he hasn’t editing his book yet and still tries to send it to publishers as is. Unsuccessfully, so far. Moreover, he is so fixated on getting this story published that he hasn’t written anything new since.

I realize that it’s one of the hardest things we have to do as writers. My heart bleeds when I have to scrap a scene I had fun writing, but it’s a necessary evil to make the story better. So when editing, I try to always keep in mind the following considerations:

 

  1. No word is set in stone.

I agree with Ernest Hemingway when he says that the first draft of everything is shit. So I set off writing any story with full knowledge that 99% of the words I put on the page will be changed during revision. I try not to get too attached to them, which is also rather liberating because I don’t have to agonize over clunky dialogue or lack of description and setting at that point; I just need to put the entire story on paper and reach the end.

There are passages that I love when I first write them, of course. But if I realize that they don’t really work with the rest of the story, I don’t hesitate to change them or ax them entirely upon editing.

 

  1. Every scene must add value to the story.

I think one of the mistakes most of us make when we write down our story is that we get too attached to a particular scene and don’t want to change it later. Like that author with his prologue.

What we must remember is that those scenes are part of something bigger, aka the story we want to tell. And the story must always take precedence over a scene, no matter how much we like it.

So when I edit a scene, I always ask myself: Does this scene move the story forward? It is important for character development? Can the same effect be achieved by adding a few paragraphs to other scenes? If the scene doesn’t meet those criteria, I don’t hesitate to take it out or cannibalize it for material to add elsewhere.

For example, yesterday I removed about 700 words worth of dialogue where my characters discuss the military structure of their world. I had tremendous fun researching and writing that scene, but it brought absolutely nothing to the story. Sure, it added to the worldbuilding, but knowing about the military structure had no impact on the story. So out of the window it went.

revision angst

  1. It’s all about the readers.

That’s the hardest lesson of all, I think. Ultimately, we don’t write stories for ourselves, not if we want them published and read at least. We write them for the enjoyment of our readers.

If a reader tells you, “I loved your story! I couldn’t put it down! What other stories do you have for sale?” that’s when you know you’ve done it right, no matter how many darlings you had to kill in the process.

Protagonists I don’t want to read about – Part 2.

This is a continuation of last week’s post where I talked about some of the protagonists I don’t want to read about. After that post, I had an interesting discussion both on Twitter and Facebook about the different tropes that rub the readers the wrong way, so I decided to continue the series.

 

  1. Miss Perfection.

 

This protagonist is absolutely perfect. She has the perfect looks, and usually through no particular effort of her own. She has the perfect family. She has the perfect job, which she is very good at (even it this job is just being an administrative assistant). She has no flaws, of the author gives her a quirky but rather endearing flaw.

 

For example, I read a book a few years ago about one of those perfect heroines. I think the author realized that she had made her protagonist a bit too perfect and decided to compensate this by making her clumsy. It would have worked too, except her clumsiness never manifested itself during moments where it could become a handicap or add tension to the story. She could trip and fall walking down the stairs every time she was with her love interest and the poor guy had no choice but to dive and catch her, but God forbid her fumbling with her gun or tripping an alarm during a critical action scene. This made her clumsiness seem very tacky and unnecessary.

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My problem with perfect protagonists is that they are extremely boring to read about. Perfection leaves no room for character growth. Plus, I don’t know about you, but I find it extremely difficult to relate to perfect people. Not mention that they just don’t feel “real,” because perfection doesn’t exist in the real world.

 

I much rather read about flawed and broken characters that feel like real people than perfect cutouts from the glamor magazine covers.

 

  1. The Chosen One.

 

There is a legend, or a prophecy, or the ravings of a mad fool foretelling the coming of the Chosen One and our protagonist fits the bill. Or everyone around her thinks that she fits the bill.

 

Now I have no problem with the concept of the Chosen One per se, but I do have a problem with the execution. Most authors feel like if their protagonist is the Chosen One, they don’t need to work that hard to make her a unique and fleshed out character anymore, because hey, she will still save the world (prevent a war, marry the prince, bring peace and prosperity, underline whatever fits the current story).

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Often it leaves the reader with a very boring protagonist who just floats with the current towards their inevitable fate, and we don’t understand why all the supporting characters fawn over this non-entity. The protagonist makes no decisions or mistakes, doesn’t grow as a character, but relies on everyone else to get her where she is supposed to go.

 

Ironically enough, these books have a lot of secondary characters that are much more interesting and fleshed out than the protagonist, probably because the author actually had to think about their backstory and behavior since they weren’t the Chosen Ones. Those characters I wouldn’t mind reading a book about.

 

  1. Mature professionals behaving like hormonal teenagers.

 

You see these protagonists a lot in fanfiction, but I’ve encountered a few specimens in actual published book as well, much to my amazement.

 

These protagonists are positioned as thirty-something professionals who are very good at their job and who have seen and done everything under the sun, and are supposed to be hardened if not jaded. Yet their behavior does not add up. They throw tantrums like a five year old that had been sent to bed without ice cream. They go into full blown hysterics or spend a good part of the story moaning about the horrors they saw or did, the unfairness of life, their scared past and other angsty stuff.

 

In some extreme cases they lash out without thinking or get extremely jealous or disparaging of other female characters, especially if they dare even look at their love interest. And my absolute “favorite” – start suddenly admiring the masculine physique or their companions / antagonists right in the middle of the action. Really? If you are in the middle of sword fight and your brain is busy undressing your opponent, chances are very good that you’re gonna end up with a sword in your stomach.  In other words, they behave like hormonal teenagers, not mature women.

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Now I am usually more tolerant of that in fanfiction because most authors are teenagers, so that’s how they think and how their peers behave. They simply don’t know any better yet. But to see this in a professionally published book? Even if it’s targeted for the young adult market, the author does her audience a great disservice by presenting them with such protagonists as role models.

 

So there are some more of the protagonists that drive me up the wall. What are your thoughts about this? Do you agree or disagree? Any other particular tropes set your teeth on edge? I want to  hear from you.

Protagonists I don’t want to read about – Part 1.

onceuponatime

 

The idea for this post (or what more likely be a series of posts) was born after I posted this book review, probably because the heroine in this book was a perfect example of a protagonist I don’t want to read about. So I thought about writing a series of posts about the different types of protagonists that drive me up the wall, make me want to throw the book at the wall, or just make me yawn and go, “Yeah, whatever.”

 

I think that it’s very important for me as a writer to be aware of what kind of protagonist makes me put a book down as a reader. So I thought I would share my personal pet peeves and ask my readers about theirs.

 

So without further ado, let’s start at number 1.

 

1. Too stupid to live.

 

This one that makes me grind my teeth in frustration and gives me the desire to whack the protagonist on the head with something heavy to put him or her out of their misery. All this protagonist does is make one stupid mistake after another during the whole book. Mistakes that land her in very dangerous situations, I must add. Amazingly enough, not only does she survive those situations, but she also refuses to learn anything from it. Special mention if those stupid mistakes are the ONLY thing that drives the story forward.

 

This one is just… GRRRR!!! I understand that a good story derives from characters making mistakes. But I’m a firm believer that there needs to be a logic behind those mistakes, and they must not seem like mistakes at the time. And no, rushing into the den of the enemy all alone and without telling anyone where you went (when your allies warned you about staying away, I might add) is never a good idea. There is no logic that can explain that apart from the idea that the character probably has a death wish.

 

Now I need to point out that I am not against the character making mistakes. By all means, let them get burned, let them do something and get smacked in the face by the consequences. But the characters need to LEARN from those mistakes, they need to EVOLVE. Those mistakes need to fuel the character progression. Otherwise it feels like this image here:

 

If you keep banging your head on the wall, chances are your head will crack first.
If you keep banging your head on the wall, chances are your head will crack first.

If all your character does is bang her head against the wall and doesn’t even pause to think that maybe finding a door or a window would be more productive… well, I don’t want to read about that.

Unfortunately, this trope usually goes hand to hand with another one of my pet peeves.

 

2. The “strong” female protagonist turns damsel in distress.

 

This is another cringe-worthy case where the protagonist is portrayed as a strong female protagonist, tough as nails, kicking butt and taking names all days of the week, doubly so on Sundays… Yet when push comes to shove and she finds herself in a dangerous situation (that might or might not have been of her own making due to stupid mistakes from point 1), she suddenly becomes completely useless. Queue the love interest / male side character(s) who ride on a shining steed to save the day.

 

I especially “love” the protagonists who can’t keep their mouths shut during the whole sad event and mouth off to their captors as well as their rescuers. If I was the antagonist, I would have gagged them, or just killed them outright rather than listen to that. If I was the love interest, I would probably rethink my priorities and the reason behind my affection toward this particular protagonist. Especially if she was kicking and screaming that she had everything under control and that I didn’t need to intervene while I dragged her from her imminent death… yet again.

 

Help, where is my knight in shining armor?
Help, where is my knight in shining armor?

This last trait of character brings me to the final point in today’s post.

 

3. Everybody loves her (usually for no reason at all).

 

We all have seen those protagonists. All the males in the vicinity seem to fall in love with them almost at first glance. They can do no wrong in their eyes, no matter how rude, pushy or disrespectful the protagonist are… or how many stupid mistakes they make throughout the book. Usually those books are also filled to the brim by handsome, strong men and the distinct lack of other female characters (at least positive ones). If there are other female characters, they usually hate the protagonist’s guts, are villains or sluts or both.

 

I think this distinct lack of positive female characters is due to the fact that they would paint our “perfect” protagonist in not a very flattering light, so instead of actually working on the character, some authors simply eliminate the competition. The Symphony of Ages books by Elizabeth Haydon are a perfect example of this – everybody loves Rhapsody, even those who say they hate her.

 

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I’m always so sad when I stumble upon a book like that, especially if the characters show at least glimpses of personality from time to time. Imagine how more profound and tridimensional the protagonist could have been, if she had real female friends, was allowed to have flaws and didn’t have the whole male population fawning over her.

 

Pfew, so those are some of my least favorite character tropes, though definitely not all of them, because listing them all probably necessitates at least another post or two. Those particular characters drive me up the wall, but what about you? What kind of protagonists make you groan and roll your eyes or close the book and move on?

The Little Things that boost our Creativity.

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Writing a first draft, or even beating it into submission editing it afterwards isn’t always sunshine and daisies. There are days when you feel like doing anything BUT sitting down to write. Heck, there are days when I’d rather clean the entire house from top to bottom and do the dishes (by hand) rather than forcing words onto the page.

 

All of the writers I talked to agree that establishing a routine and sticking to it helps a lot when you have one of those days. And a routine doesn’t only mean pick a time dedicated to writing every day and stick to it, though that’s a very useful advice. There are other elements that incite you to pick up the pen (or put fingers to the keyboard) and write. So I thought to make a list of the little things that put me in the mood or motivate me to get on with my writing.

 

1. The right pen and a stack of recycled paper.

 

I know a lot of people chose to type their first draft directly on the computer, and I must admit that it certainly is faster than writing it by hand. I do that when I need to write a lot of words fast, like during NaNoWriMo, when I have to meet my quota of 1667 words per day. When I’m not in such a hurry however, I prefer to write the old fashioned way – by hand.

 

And while I’m not very particular about the paper I use, preferring to recycle printed pages that would have otherwise gone into the trash at work, I am VERY particular about the type of pen I use. I have tried many pens in the past year and I have arrived to the conclusion that the Pilot G-2 gel pen is the best suited for my needs. It glides over the paper almost effortlessly, and my hand doesn’t hurt so much even after a long writing session. Oh, and it has to be blue ink. No other color will do.

 

I know that my method is slower than simply typing on the computer directly, but I find that it lets me concentrate better on what I want to say. Also, I go through the first round of edits while I type everything into my Scrivener file at the end of the day.

Finish what you start!
Finish what you start!

 

2. Background noise is good, but music is distracting.

 

I can write in a crowded coffee shop or restaurant, in a park, in the waiting line at the post office or even in my car. The background noise of conversations doesn’t distract me. In fact, I find it rather stimulating. Which is good, considering that I often use my lunch hour to put 300-400 words on the page. At first, waiters in the local restaurants used to give me funny looks when I showed up with my pen and plastic folder full of loose papers, but now they got used to the crazy lady scribbling furiously in a corner during lunch.

 

I can also write with the TV on, as long as my husband refrains from poking me every 5 minutes and wanting to discuss the series he’s watching. And my patience grows very short indeed when he does that. I’m sorry, dearest. I transform into a fire breathing dragon all of a sudden and you have no idea why. And it could easily be avoided if you just let me be for an hour or so!

 

I know a lot of writers work with their headphones on and even compile entire playlists with their “writing” music. I discover however, that I can’t write with music on, especially if it’s music that I like or that has words in it. I end up either listening to it or singing along instead of concentrating on writing. I don’t know why background noise is fine, but music isn’t.

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3. Using visual media for inspiration.

 

I have a pretty good idea of what my characters look like when I sit down to write about them, but just before NaNoWriMo 2014, I discovered that Pinterest could be a nifty little tool for gathering all the visual information I need to boots my creativity. I created several boards for all my ongoing projects and spent several days happily hunting around the Internet for pictures of people that looked more or less like my characters or places that I could use in my stories.

 

The advantage of having these boards is that I can always look at them when I feel sluggish and it will inevitably push me to write. Plus, it’s harder to get the description of a character wrong if I’m staring at his picture. If you are interested, you can visit my Pinterest page and see what I have been up to.

 

The downside of Pinterest is that it’s a huge time sink. No matter what you start looking for, you always end up going on a tangent. And the next thing you know, two hours have gone by and you have a bunch of Dragon Age pictures in your dedicated board and nothing about the Norse mythology you had wanted to research…

 

So these are the little things that help me get in the writing mood even when I don’t feel like writing. What about you, dear readers? What helps you or hinters you? I’d love to hear from you!

Write What You Love.

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Since the beginning of my writing adventure, I have often heard it said that you should write what you know. And I agree with this statement.

Of course, it doesn’t mean that you need to be a quantum physicist in order to describe a new form of space travel in your science fiction books, but you need to at least do your research and consult with one to make sure that your ideas are not too farfetched. It also means that when you are creating your own world and magic system, you need to think it through, put down the ground rules and stick to them throughout your book.

So this is sound advice, but lately I have come to the realization that there is another piece of advice that works even better for me – Write what you Love.

I know this might be self-explanatory and some of you will think that I’m reinventing the wheel here, but I felt like this was an important realization I wanted to share with my readers. So let me explain what I mean by that statement.

 

  1. Write in the genres you love reading.

What books do you enjoy reading? What TV shows, movies or video games you like the most? Chances are, that’s the genres you will find the easiest to write in because you know them inside out by now. Also, if you are excited about something, if you love your idea and your genre, your readers will feel that. Hence, your book will be better for it.

For example, I really love fantasy and science fiction, with a dash of paranormal, a good mystery, and a sprinkle of horror from time to time. Now if I look at the works I’ve finished so far, what do I see? Of Broken Things is a science fiction mystery. The Choices we make is definitely set in a fantasy world. Mists of the Crossworlds is also a kind of weird fantasy. And The Eye of the Norns cycle leans more towards dark fantasy and horror.

Those are all the genres I love reading, so I naturally gravitated towards them because that’s the kind of stories I love telling. Would I be able to write a non-fiction self-help book or a romance? Probably… If I REALLY put my mind to it. I would suffer every step of the way and the end result would probably not be worth reading though.

snoopy-writing

  1. What characters do you like? What characters do you feel the most involved with?

We all have our preferences, certain types of people that I would find absolutely fascinating, or could relate to, but would leave you unmoved and bored. And this is wonderful, because this means that no matter how strange, or damaged, or bookish your characters are, there will be someone out there that would love them. This also means that when we write about the characters we love, they tend to come out more “alive” because we are invested in them so much more…

I have a funny (and eye opening, at least for me) story about that.

I had an interesting discussion with one of my best friends and fateful beta readers the other day. We are both fans of the Dragon Age games and, girls being girls, we were talking about the different romance options. I told her that I found it weird that I found the romance with Cullen in DA: Inquisition so satisfying when I couldn’t stand romancing Alistair in Dragon Age: Origins. I always picked Zevran over him (and Fenris over Anders in Dragon Age II).

So I told her, “I guess I’m just a sucker for strong, if slightly damaged men.”

And she answered, “Duh, it’s kinda evident from your own work.”

I must admit that I had never thought about it before, but after she said that, I went back to analyze my own characters and I had to admit that she was 100% right. Aiden, GMS798, Sky, Brand, Gabriel, all of them are exactly what I told her – strong if slightly damaged men. So I think this example perfectly illustrates the truth of this statement.

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  1. Forget the genres, write what you love or genre hopping is permitted.

A lot of writing and publishing advice tells us to pick a genre and stick with it, because that’s what your audience would come to expect from you. I might be stating a controversial opinion here when I say bull&$#!

Write what you like. Does your story shape out to be a hybrid between fantasy and science fiction? Go for it. After all, Iain M Banks did exactly that with Inversions and it turned out to be an excellent book. You feel like adding a good murder mystery to your fantasy world? Why not? You don’t feel like writing science fiction stories your whole writing career and want to try your hand at horror? Go ahead.

My point is, write what you love. As long as you love the story you’re telling and the characters you are writing about, the readers will feel it. They will love or hate your characters, depending on their personal preferences, but they will stick around to find out what happens to them regardless.

 

The fear of the blank page.

I had to go back to the drawing board and re-outline my novella Mists of the Crossworlds, because I have realized that there was more to the story than I first thought… like at least 10k words more. This novella is slowly turning into a novel.

But this post is not about yet another transformation this ever-changing story is putting me through. Now that I’m forced to continue this story, I am faced with of the banes of a writer’s existence – the fear of the blank page.

When I first started writing, I thought this was a disease plaguing only new writers, but a year and a half and several finished projects later, I still get paralyzed by the sight of a blank page. The first 200 words of so of each daily session are the hardest to write. Sometimes they feel like pulling teeth. I have a detailed outline. I know where my story is supposed to go. And usually, once I get going, I can put up to 1k words on paper in one session without problems, but those first 200… they are always hard.

Before I started panicking, I dived into the wast ocean of the Internet and discovered that I’m not alone in my plight! That was strangely reassuring, actually. I think all of us creative types (writers, artists, painters) have this moment of fear when we begin something new. We stare at this yet unmarred page (or canvas) and we get scared to waste it, to create something unworthy. We forget for a moment that this is just the first draft, that any mistakes we make now can be corrected later. And no matter how many books you wrote and sold, how much money or recognition we gained, this fear will always be there…

I think it’s important to recognize that and not let it paralyze you. So I decided to analyze what helps me get past this fear and write anyway.

Sometimes, just sitting down and putting pen to paper, no matter what mood you are in, helps, because after those first excruciating 200 words, the story finally starts flowing again.

But sometimes  summoning the enthusiasm to write isn’t as easy. I found that reading good books on writing helps me fall in love with the process all over again. I have two books that I always come back to whenever I am in need of a pep talk. I’m gonna post them here in the hope that they might help somebody else as well.

First of all, I need to mention this book, because without it I wouldn’t be writing today. On Writing by Stephen King gave me the courage necessary to start that very first story a couple years ago. It will probably never see the light of day again, but It nudged me into the right direction. It’s a wonderful view into the life of an author, and while it doesn’t have a lot of technical stuff about the whole writing process, it has a lot of motivational and heartwarming insights. I still come back to it whenever I am in need of inspiration.

Another wonderful book to have on your bedside table, or on your Kindle is Write, Publish, Repeat by Sean Platt, Johnny B Truant and David Wright. It has a lot of nuts and bolts of how to write and publish books, but also funny stories and plenty of encouragement. I think this book is a must read even if you are not planning on self-publishing your stories. I find it extremely motivating.

Another wonderful motivator is going to other writers’ blogs and reading their stories or hopping on Twitter and talking to a few fellow writers about it. Writing a solitary process, yes, but it doesn’t mean we are alone in this struggle. We all have good and bad days. We all get paralyzed by the sight of a blank page from time to time. So reaching out and just talking about it with people who understand exactly what you are going through helps a lot.

So there you have it. My struggle with the blank page and my ways of coping with it. What about you? Do you get blocked by the fear to start something new? If so, how do you get past it? I want to hear from you!

A call for Beta Readers.

helpwanted

Those of you who follow my blog more or less regularly know that I have several projects in various stages of competition.

I’ve just finished the first draft of The Choices we Make, a 110k words novel, so I needed to relax and switch focus for a bit. This I have been editing and outlining smaller projects, like the short stories in my Eye of the Norns Cycle.

I have concentrated most of my efforts on my novella Mists of the Crosswords, and I have taken it as far as I can take it on my own. But before I start looking for a professional editor to go over it with a fine tooth comb and fix my wonky grammar and punctuation, I need a fresh set of eyes on the story. This is where you come in.

This is a call for a few brave souls dedicated beta readers. I am looking for someone who will take the time to go over my story and tell me what works and what doesn’t, whether I left a plot hole big enough to drive a truck through, or if the actions of my characters stopped making sense all of a sudden. In other words, anything that jumps at you from the page and that I just don’t see anymore because I went over this story so many times.

I would like to point out that accepting to beta read is a hard job and can’t be taken lightly. Yes, you get to read a brand new book before anybody else, but I expect you to put some effort into it and give me constructive feedback. And I will need that feedback before the deadline.

The Mists of the Crossworlds is a fantasy novella aimed mostly towards Young Adults. Here is the blurb:

Lori has the ability to shift into the crossworlds, the strange plane that connects different words together. She guides merchant caravans for the Guild who has absolute monopoly on crossworld travel. But one day, her best friend goes missing and the mists start calling her name. Lori is faced with a though choice:  will she hide from those voices in the safety of the Guild Tower, or will she dare step off the beaten path in order to save the person that matters to her the most?

  •  All beta readers will receive a .docx file and a Beta Reader’s questionnaire that should help them focus on the areas I need most feedback with.
  • Please write your comments and suggestions directly in the file using Track Changes.
  • I would need all feedback and questionnaires sent back to me by March 9th. The novella is only 22k words long, so I think two weeks should be plenty of time.

All beta readers who accept this task and provide constructive feedback will be mentioned in the  Acknowledgement section once the book is published. They will also receive a free short story as a thank you gift.

If you are interested in beta reading it for me, please either put your email address in the comments to this post, or email me directly at elorenalory@gmail.com.

Why I love reading fanfiction and why I can’t write it.

I must admit that I absolutely love reading fanfiction. I think it’s because sometimes I like the characters or the world so much, that I feel sad leaving them behind once the book is finished. I think most of us feel the same way, as the sheer amount of fanfiction written everyday can attest.

Fanfiction gives the readers a chance to explore the world the author created a bit further, or to shine the light on secondary characters that had been mostly on the margins of the original story. Sometimes it even lets the readers reimagine the story itself if, for some reason, they didn’t like the ending the author gave them. I know that I love reading fanfics that I will never forgive Rowling for pairing Hermione with Ron, or for killing Severus Snape off (and in such a lame way). So I particularly enjoy reading fanfics that explore other paths Hermione could have taken after Hogwards, or those where Snape survived and finally got a chance a normal life.

keep-calm-and-read-fanfics

I think it’s normal to want to read and write fanfiction, and I know that many writers started their writing careers by writing fanfics for books that really touched them. It’s also an excellent form of exercise, because it lets your imagination run free, but at the same time give you a set of rules consistent with the world of the original (unless you are trying to write something totally AU). It’s also an easily accessible (and free) way of staying a little bit longer with the characters you like.

The downside of this is that there is a lot of drivel out there. Stories that are poorly written, with characters that are so OOC they are unrecognizable, and a plot that is pure wish fulfilment on the part of author. I have noticed a lot of that last one when the authors try to introduce an original character into the story and she / he end up being a better (in their mind) version of the author him / herself (that’s where all the Mary Sue and Gary Stu come from). So, sifting through the muck can be a painful and mind-numbing process, but sometimes you find absolute gems – fanfics so well written, that they keep you hooked just as much (if not more sometimes) than the original book (movie, series, graphic novel) did.

By the way, if you are a fan of Harry Potter fiction, the wonderful Loten has some beautiful (and very well plotted) stories. WARNING – there is explicit content and most of the stories are about Hermione Granger and Severus Snape. I would especially recommend her Post Tenebras Lux.

But I got sidetracked. Moving on. I think I pretty much covered the reason of my love for fanfiction, so now I have a confession to make. I absolutely, totally suck at writing it. I CAN’T write fanfiction to save my life. Every time I get psyched up about a show or a book and want to write a story about it, I end up thinking about it for so long that by the time I sit down to write, I have created my own world and the characters populating it have nothing in common with their prototypes.

For example, my first novel Of Broken Things started out as a fanfiction idea when I watched Star Trek Into Darkness. I had been so impressed by the portrayal of Khan by the wonderful Benedict Cumberbatch, that I remember thinking, “What would someone like that do if he fell in love? And then lost the woman he loved? Oh, but it must have been an exceptional woman to catch the eye of someone like that.” And I started thinking about plot and character backgrounds, world building and politics, and ended up with a story that has nothing to do with Star Trek. Yes, one of the protagonists in it is a genetically modified soldier, but that’s the only think GMS798 has in common with Khan. I started with a fanfiction idea and ended up with an original book.

The idea for my next book also came as a result of watching a popular TV series. I was so impressed with one of the characters that I wanted to play with him myself. Only he didn’t want to talk to me. He kept pushing other characters into the light instead, none of which were present in the original show. By the time he finally decided to step into the light and tell his story, the only thing he had left from that character in the show was the face. And I’m thankful, because he brought me a wonderful story that I can’t wait to tell.

I think the reason why I can’t write fanfiction is because I don’t feel comfortable playing in somebody else’s sandbox. I can’t help but start changing the rules, modifying the backstory and starting to build my own castles. So I might was well go to my own sandbox and do it there, at least then I can have some fun without feeling guilty about it, and even discover wonderful stories in the process.

So what do you guys think? Do you read fanfiction? Do you write it? Do you think fanfiction is important? And question for published authors out there, do you read fanfiction about your stories?

My short story “A Small Detour” has been published.

I have started my journey to become a writer during NaNoWriMo 2013. Can’t believe it’s already been seven months. During that time

1. I have finished the first draft of my novel Of Broken Things,

2. thought I had finished a short story called Mists of the Crossworlds, but it decided to become a novelette instead,

3. Finished the short story A Small Detour.

4. Started the first round of edits and rewrites on Of Broken Things.

5. Started brainstorming an idea for a new novel involving a vampire and a Tuata de Danan (don’t ask, I have no idea what’s going on there, I’m still busy torturing my characters and prying information out of them).

6. Had to get a big bucket for all the plot bunnies that started breading in my head at the speed of light.

7. Started submitting A Small Detour to different magazines.

Well, on May 24 I passed another important milestone on my writing journey. My short story had been accepted by Witty Bard Publishing LLC to be featured in their anthology Of Dragons and Magic: Tales of the Lost Worlds. Here is a beautiful picture of the cover:

Of Dragons and Magic

This is a big deal for me. I know it’s just a short story, but to me this is proof that what I do is worth something. That I’m not just spinning stories for myself and my immediate family, and that other people might find it interesting and worth their while. As of two days ago, I ceased to be a pre-published writer and became an author.

To pick your curiosity, here is a little synopsis of A Small Detour: When Ryssa’s horse gets stolen along with most of her possessions, she is forced to take a small detour. Little does she know that this detour had been the destination the Norns had intended for her all along.

It’s available on Amazon (see link above), so go check it out, spread the word. The other stories in the anthology are well worth your while as well.

Onwards towards new accomplishments!

Of Broken Things – first draft finished.

Last night, I crossed a very important milestone: I finished the first draft of the novel I had started in November 2013 for NaNoWriMo. For me, it is a huge accomplishment, because I have never actually finished anything before.

Sure, I have plenty of stories that I had started and abandoned after a couple chapters, when I got bogged down by plot inconsistencies, couldn’t see my characters clearly or had no clue where my story was going, or simply got bored and went off to write the next shiny new thing. But not this time. This time I stuck with it, through happy moments when words flew onto the page faster than I could write them down and moments when every single word seemed to cost an ounce of my own blood. I stuck with the story, with the characters and I brought it all to a satisfying conclusion.

The feeling is… exhilarating, electrifying and a bit scary. I have done it. I finished something. I proved to myself that I am a writer, that I can tell stories from beginning to the end. That’s the exhilarating part.

The scary part is that I am entering uncharted waters now. I have never finished a draft before, so I have no idea how to go about rewriting and editing it, and what steps to take to transform it into a book it deserves to be, a book that I wouldn’t be ashamed to send out into the world. It feels like standing at the entrance of a labyrinth with no map and knowing that you have to navigate through it to the other side. It’s kind of paralyzing.

So I need help and I need advice from everyone who has been in my shoes and had already tackled the editing hurdle. Where do I go now? How do I even begin?